Days after the head of Twin Cities-based Best Buy warned analysts that the retailer saw an increase in crime, many shoplifters apparently rushed two Best Buy stores in the metropolitan area together on Friday night, seizing expensive goods before fleeing.
Both crimes happened just after 8 pm on one of the busiest shopping days of the year after the Thanksgiving party. Police said a group of 20 to 30 people stole goods in the Burnsville store, while 10 to 12 adults and teens allegedly looted the Maplewood store.
No one was injured, and as of Saturday, no one has been reported arrested in connection with the thefts. They came after a series of rude masses at other dealers across the country.
“Retailers across the country are seeing peaks in crime,”[ads1]; a Best Buy spokesman said in a statement Saturday. “These incidents have been largely non-violent, but often traumatic for those who witnessed them. As an industry, we are cooperating with local law enforcement and taking further security measures where it makes sense.”
No weapons were seen in the Burnsville incident, said Burnsville Police Chief Don Stenger. “We do not know exactly what was taken or the dollar value,” he said.
Maplewood police, who arrived at the store at 8:10 p.m. Friday, were told that the group of suspects had entered the store at the same time and worked together to steal a number of items, including TVs, tablets and hoverboards.
Star Tribune was at the Maplewood Best Buy store early Friday morning, where crowds were larger than on Black Friday last year when many shoppers decided to stay home out of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Security personnel were placed at the front of the store while people shopped and paid for their goods.
Police worked with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to identify the suspects and determine if the crimes were related. They are similar to a number of so-called masses that were recently reported in the United States, where groups of people “swarm” a store, clear the shelves for goods and then flee.
“Across the board, retailers are becoming more concerned about this growing trend … It’s definitely a difficult problem to solve, given the organized nature and number of people involved in many of the events,” said Chris Walton, a former Target leader who heads the retail blog and the podcast Omni Talk and Minneapolis retail lab Third Haus.
Several burglaries were reported in stores in Chicago on Black Friday. Earlier this month, smash-and-grab incidents were reported at exclusive brands such as Louis Vuitton in the San Francisco area. Walgreens recently said it was closing several of its San Francisco pharmacies, citing “organized retail crime.”
Walton said he expected dealers to place more security guards at the doors and more controlled entrances and exits to buildings, as well as investments in technology that can better identify potential suspects. There may also be more lobbying for changes in the Store Theft Act and demands for better regulation of online resale sites.
Best Buy is lobbying at the federal level for a law that will make resale of stolen goods online more difficult.
“We’re definitely seeing more and more, especially organized retail crime and the occurrence of shrinkage at our locations … And this is a real problem that hurts and scares real people,” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said earlier this week during an earnings interview with analysts.
Barry said that Best Buy unlocks some products and hires security to try to combat some of the crime. Best Buy executives said such crime plays a role in the company’s declining profit margins.
It remains to be seen how organized these specific Best Buy crimes were, or whether shoplifters decided to act in an instant, perhaps copying other crimes seen on social media, said Mike Olson, CEO of Minneapolis-based 360 Security Services and a former U.S. Secret Service special agent and St. Paul police officer.
“When everyone wears masks because of COVID and law enforcement resources scattered thin, you certainly create a perfect storm for potential criminals,” Olson said.
Theft, fraud and losses from other so-called retail “shrinks” reached nearly $ 62 billion in 2019, up from $ 50.6 billion the year before, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
“Between an increase in incidents and new ways of stealing, shrink is at an all-time high,” NRF vice president of research development and industry analysis Mark Mathews said in a statement.
During the holidays, the number of shoplifting increases because there is a larger market for people who want to buy stolen goods, he said. He added that it is important for dealers to communicate with each other and for law enforcement groups to work together to detect crime circles.
Shoppers can also play a role and should come up with information that could potentially help improve security, especially since the cost of store theft is ultimately passed on to them, Olson said. “It’s everyone’s job to take ownership of our community,” he said.